Archive for September, 2020

Detail #401: Finite verbs, infinitives and …

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

I have recently taken to writing longer, even more typologically informed posts that sit around in my drafts folder waiting to be finished. One such post will be about infinitives and related forms.

My original intent with the post was a bit less ambitious than it now is, and the original ideas I set out to give a context for now seem to fit better in a separate post altogether.

Let us consider finite verbs and infinitives. This is a very simple two-way split. Could we turn it into a three-way split?

It's of course easy to write a half-assed description in a grammar that says something like "this form is half-way between a finite verb and an infinite verb" - but half-way along what dimensions? What dimensions even separate the two kinds?

It turns out infinitives vary a lot from language to language, and not all languages even have them. However, one could possibly design the verb system in such a way that there are forms with different properties, and the verb forms form three or four clusters.

Maybe one could even get rid of the notion of a finite verb with some clever decisions, and instead distribute the properties that generally characterize a finite verb to two or three other verb forms that have to be combined in order to achieve a properly finite VP?

Of course participles, verbal nouns, converbs, coverbs, conegatives, gerunds, forms that just get called "infinitive III" or the like, etc have a lot of different coordinates in "verb property space" - and these may not even be uniform from language to language or even dialect to dialect - and sometimes, they even come close enough to finite verb space to cross over that line. 

The challenge for a conlanger, as I see it, is getting distinct clusters. Once my post on infinitives is done, I may write a follow-up that attempts coming up with some way of mapping "verb form space" onto three clusters (or four) in "verb property space".

Detail #400: Converbs and Alignment-like phenomena

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

Converbs are essentially verb forms that have some form of adverbial use. In some way one could also say they are "cases for verbs". They often mark things such as "condition on which the main verb depends", "action that was enabled by the predicate", "action that enabled the predicate", "... preceded ...", "... followed ...", "... coincided with ...", etc. There is a lot of possibilities with converbs, and I may write a post going into some of that later on.

However, let's think a bit about the relationship between the converb and the main verb. We can divide all sentences in the world into two types:

  1. No converb is present.
  2. One or more converbs are present.

We can imagine a system with a handful of different converbs, maybe the following:

  • conditional
  • simultaneous
  • in order to
  • as a result of
  • until the end of
  • from the end of
  • temporarily doing

What if a clause with no converb usually does not mark its predicate verb with the usual finite markers, but with one particular converb's forms, thus giving us a slightly "ergative-like" pattern, where "normal verb inflections" are ergative, and that particular converb is "absolutive"? Maybe there can be two converbs that can have that "absolutive" role, with a differential morphology thing going: maybe "simultaneous" usually just means "happens", whereas "temporarily" means "habitually or on-and-off".

We can consider other factors also that trigger which pattern is used: maybe some persons take the regular finite verb, or inanimates take some of the converbs for predicates except if there's some "real" converb present?

Free Genitive and Construct State in Eḥeiθymme

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

Daniel Quigley received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2018, and attended graduate school at the Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands from 2018 to 2019, where he graduated from the UU Honours College. Beginning in the fall of 2020, he will be attending the graduate school at the University of Wisconson – Milwaukee. Daniel is a worldbuilder with particular interest in the contact and interactions of dissimilar languages, cultures, and technologies. His science fiction creative works tend towards the hard end of Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness, and his fantasy fiction tends to feature very soft magic systems.


This paper is an overview of the Free Genitive and Construct State in the constructed language Eḥeiθymme im Ajjad Eḥðeirymme Amran. This is done with frequent reference to the Semitic languages, which exhibit these methods for genitival relationships. This presentation follows: an overview of the construction; adjacency, prosody, and definiteness of the Construct State; a syntactic treatment of the Free Genitive and the Construct State relative to the Semitic; semantic relationships of the elements of the Construct State; a brief historical outline of the Construct State.

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